APS Students discover, learn at Shipwreck Alley

ALPENA – The Plaza Pool was filled with students learning all about snorkeling, diving and underwater archaeology during John Caplis’ Shipwreck Alley class on Friday. The class is an Earth Sciences elective and teaches students about meteorology, archaeology, earth science, history and even some engineering.

“Students learn how to document and chart shipwrecks, get to experience what it feels like to be in a dive suit and actually breathe underwater, they build a remotely operatored vehicle and learn about neutral bouyancy and engineering design and get to take all they learn and apply it to real-world situations,” Caplis said. “This day lets us actually get into the water and apply all we’ve been learning in the classroom and literally “dive” into learning.”

Students had different stations in the pool focusing on different topics. They drove an ROV for the first time and learned how to maneuver it and even got to experience a black out snorkeling dive to learn how to use their other senses to investigate and determine what objects were without seeing them.

“One of the favorite stations in the pool is the snorkling area,” Caplis said. “The kids get to practice their snorkeling skills by holding one breath and observing as many coins on the bottom of the pool to see how far they can go. They also have a portion where they learn about fluid dynamics and hydrolics under water which is very challenging.”

Staff from the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary were at the pool teaching each of the stations and providing advice and personal experience tips to the students about working in the water.

“It’s proven that students and even adults learn better through actual experience,” sanctuary media and outreach coordinator Stephanie Gandulla said. “They get to experience things that can happen in a real world environment, like the black out station, and also gain an actual hands-on learning experience.”

Caplis said the students enjoy the class because the learning is fun.

“I actually have students that tell me thank you for having the class,” Caplis said. “It’s so much fun and the students learn so much from the class that they can use right here in Alpena. It really gets them excited about learning research and history.”

Involvement from partners like the Besser Foundation, who donated the snorkeling equipment and ROV parts, and the sanctuary staff who donate their time and allow the classes to use some equipment make the class possible, Caplis said.

“It all started out as an idea I pitched to the sanctuary and its grown from there,” Caplis said. “Now I have multiple classes each trimester and enjoy teaching every one of them.”

Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at ngrulke@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5687. Follow Nicole on Twitter @ng_alpenanews.